Native Village of Point Hope v. Salazar

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 05-25-2012
  • Case #: 11-72891; 11-72943
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judges Bea and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

Where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management does not act “arbitrarily or capriciously” in concluding that the description of an exploratory oil drilling plan satisfied the informational requirements of 30 C.F.R. § 550.213(d), the court will defer to the agency’s interpretation of its own regulations.

Native Village of Point Hope et al. and Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (collectively, “Petitioners”) argued that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) neglected its obligations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) by approving Shell Offshore Inc.’s (“Shell”) plan for exploratory oil drilling. BOEM approved Shell’s revised exploration plan in August 2011, with the condition that it make certain technical demonstrations regarding its oil spill response program. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) approved the revised plan in March 2012. First, Petitioners argued that Shell’s plan did not sufficiently plan for the worst case scenarios that could occur. However, the Court found that this challenge was moot based on the BSEE’s approval of the plan. Second, Petitioners challenged BOEM’s decision on the basis that Shell did not provide all the information required by OCSLA and other implementing regulations. The Court disagreed, finding that the BOEM could reasonably conclude that the description of the technology was adequate. Petitioners also voiced concern that Shell did not explain the way the technology would work or how the plan would be executed within the proscribed time. The Court found that the feasibility of this type of well-capping technology was a determination within BOEM’s expertise. The Court deferred to BOEM’s decision and, as a result, denied the petitions for review. DENIED.

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